Saturday, May 28, 2011

Book Review: Ascendant by Diana Peterfreund

Title: Ascendant (Killer Unicorns #2)
Author: Diana Peterfreund
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: 09/28/2010
ISBN: 0061490024

After finishing this book I'm more convinced than ever that HarperTeen needs to put out another book in this series. (As of this review there's technically no other books under contract, but hopefully that will change!)

There's a lot to love in this book. Not only do we have the wonderful idea of killer unicorns but we're beginning to see that all is not hunky dory in Astrid's world. She's just now beginning to discover the true drawbacks of the profession of unicorn hunting. She can have a boyfriend but she can't sleep with him. Going out in public means that she'll constantly be at risk of unicorn attacks & now that the world is fully aware of the unicorn threat, Astrid feels more alone than ever. I really feel that Peterfreund did a good job of illustrating Astrid's confusion, so it really made sense when offered a cushy position later in the book.

Unfortunately some will be a little frustrated at the ending of this book. While there's enough wrapped up to where it can suffice as an ending if no more books are forthcoming, there's still more than enough unresolved plot elements to frustrate people. (Although if there are more books then this was an excellent way to leave the second volume.)

I'm really loving this series so I truly hope that we get more books to the series. There's potential for not only 1-2 more books of Astrid but also prequels detailing the life of previous unicorn hunters.

5 out of 5 stars

Book Review: The Jefferson Key by Steve Berry

The Jefferson Key
Author: Steve Berry
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date:05/17/2011
ISBN: 0345505514

Unlike the previous books in the Cotton Malone series, this book doesn't have him jetting off to any far off & exotic location. No, much of this book takes place in the United States, which gave me sort of a thrill. While I love reading about distant places, it's fun to finally read about places that I've actually seen with my own eyes.

Four United States presidents have been assassinated—in 1865, 1881, 1901, and 1963—each murder seemingly unrelated and separated by time.

But what if those presidents were all killed for the same reason: a clause in the United States Constitution—contained within Article 1, Section 8—that would shock Americans?

This question is what faces former Justice Department operative Cotton Malone in his latest adventure. When a bold assassination attempt is made against President Danny Daniels in the heart of Manhattan, Malone risks his life to foil the killing—only to find himself at dangerous odds with the Commonwealth, a secret society of pirates first assembled during the American Revolution. In their most perilous exploit yet, Malone and Cassiopeia Vitt race across the nation and take to the high seas. Along the way they break a secret cipher originally possessed by Thomas Jefferson, unravel a mystery concocted by Andrew Jackson, and unearth a centuries-old document forged by the Founding Fathers themselves, one powerful enough—thanks to that clause in the Constitution—to make the Commonwealth unstoppable.

Much like the previous books, however, the action is still very much present & accounted for. It's incredibly fast paced, which worked well for the storyline as well as with the constant shifts in narration. The "forgotten treasure" in question (documents written by the Founding Fathers) is incredibly intriguing in that unlike some of the other things Malone has tried to track down, these were known to exist. I can't write more without spoiling it, but it's a bit of a change from previous plot elements.

Unfortunately I know that there will be some people who are going to be unhappy that the continuous shifts in narration continue in this book. The shifts are easier to read & cleaner than in some of the prior novels, so I found that they didn't really bother me all that much. (I'd been irritated by this in previous novels.)

All in all, this was an excellent book. Maybe it's that part of the action happens in locations I'm familiar with; maybe it's that the subject matter is pretty cool. Either way, I loved this entry in the Cotton Malone series & I'm eagerly looking forward to the next book Berry puts out.

4 out of 5 stars

(ARC provided by Amazon Vine)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Vote Spookygirl in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards!

Hi everyone! It's been a busy month for me, but I promise I'll be better next month!

I'm just stopping in to promote one of the books that's currently competing in the final stage of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards. It's called Spookygirl & it looks fantastic! Click on the above image to go to the amazon page where you can download a free sample of the book for the kindle!

Unlike many of the previous winners that I've seen, this isn't the typical "teen/child coming of age & getting all touchy feely" type of book. I'm sure it has that in there as well, but this book goes the distance & also gives us ghosts. Yep, ghosts!

The populars at Palmetto High call sophomore Violet Addison "Spookygirl," and it's not hard to see why. As if living with her funeral director father in a tiny apartment above his mortuary weren't enough to make her a social outcast, there's a rumor going around that Violet can talk to the dead. Unfortunately, that rumor's true. Violet's not interested in crossing anyone over; she's as cool and impatient with the deceased as she is with the living. The dead can be incredible pests, though, and despite her reluctance to help the spirits who seek her out, soon she's reuniting a ghost jock with his goth girlfriend and investigating a hellgate in the girls' locker room. Each experience puts her closer to discovering the truth behind the paranormal investigation that killed her mother. Along the way, Violet begins to recognize that real people with interesting secrets hide behind the high school stereotypes she assigns her classmates and teachers. She needs all the allies she can find -- after all, surviving high school is tough enough without a bunch of dead people spooking around. Ghostbusters meets a gothed-up Glee in this mix of high school drama and supernatural snark.

Let's all make Spookygirl the first paranormal YA book to win the ABNAs! Click on the ABNA symbol below to go to the main page where you can make your vote!

If you're curious to know more about the author, check out her blog!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Book Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (No Future For You) by Joss Whedon

Title: Buffy The Vampire Slayer: No Future For You (Season 8, V 2)
Author: Joss Whedon
Publisher:Dark Horse
Release Date: 06/11/2008
ISBN: 159307963X

I took a while to savor the first volume before fully jumping into this one, taking my time to enjoy the story & artwork. After all, this volume brought back Faith, one of my favorite characters in the show. (She isn't going to topple Willow as my favorite character, but she's up there.)

Eisner award-winning writer Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina) tackles Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight with "No Future for You." When a rogue debutant Slayer begins to use her power for evil, Giles is forced to recruit the rebellious Faith, who isn't exactly known for her good deeds. Giles offers Faith a clean slate if she can stop this snooty Slayer from wreaking total havoc - that is, if Buffy doesn't beat her to it. Georges Jeanty (The American Way) remains at the top of his game as series artist, and Whedon stays on as "Executive Producer" in this direct follow-up to Season Seven of the smash-hit TV series.

I'll be honest & say that this volume was really all about Faith & how she's dragged back into the action by Giles. The comic format really does help the story along since it allows us to see into Faith's head via the mental narration, something that'd be harder to do on TV. I really loved how the story reintroduced Faith as well as given Giles a little something to do that doesn't involve Buffy. The guy does deserve a life of his own, after all!

Unfortunately the artwork didn't seem to suit Faith as well as it did Willow & Buffy in the first volume. It's still well done but it just seemed like it wasn't as good as the first volume was. I also couldn't help but wish that Faith's interaction with the snobby blue-blooded Slayer had been a little more drawn out. There was just so much potential there & I felt it ended a little too soon.

Still, this was a good volume & one that I still heartily recommend to Buffy fans or just fans of comics in general.

(Reader Copy provided by NetGalley)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Book Review: Scary Godmother Comic Book Stories by Jill Thompson

Title: Scary Godmother: Comic Book Stories
Author: Jill Thompson
Publisher: Dark Horse
Release Date: 07/26/2011
ISBN: 1595827234

While I've never read the Scary Godmother series before, I was pleased to discover that I'd seen Thompson's work before via the Fables & Sandman series. She's got an incredibly playful touch that worked well with both series & I was delighted to be able to review this book for Netgalley.

Jill Thompson's award-winning children's series, Scary Godmother - widely known from the Cartoon Network animated feature - is back with more entertainment for readers of all ages in this complete comic-book collection! Join Scary Godmother and all her decidedly dreadful friends on the Fright Side as they bring their special touch of Halloween to otherwise-terrorless times for little Hannah Marie - Christmas, Valentine's Day, summer vacation, and more! This extensive collection will have Hannah planning thoughtful schemes to give the perfect holiday gifts; Ruby the vampire getting guidance in romance; Hannah and her mischievous cousin Jimmy encountering monsters at summer camp; and Scary Godmother dealing with someone from her past! Plus, favorite character Harry the werewolf stars in a story all his own! Also included is the Scary Godmother Activity Book, filled with tons of spooky fun, and a full-color sketchbook section featuring more of Jill's Scary Godmother goodies!

There's a lot to love about this comic book. For starters, you don't have to have read the book series to understand what's going on so if (like me) you haven't seen the SG series before you won't have any problem figuring out what's what & who's who. The artwork is easily one of the best parts of this book, with Thompson doing a very good job of capturing the playful natures of her characters.

What I really loved about the book was how dark the stories would occasionally get. Parents, don't worry- it doesn't get that dark, although if you're truly worried you can always sit & read this with your kids. There's nothing here that the average child or teen won't already be seeing on Cartoon Network. This hopefully won't deter people from getting this & will hopefully bring in a few of the older readers since this really has an incredibly wide appeal.

I do recommend reading this in smaller gulps than I did. This was very fun to read but I'll admit that a little goes a long way. There's a lot of wackyness in here & as such can be a little much all at once. (But I couldn't stop reading, so that says something for the addictiveness of this read.)

4 out of 5 stars

(ARC provided by Netgalley)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Book Review: The Art of Alice: Madness Returns by American McGee

Title: The Art of Alice: Madness Returns
Author: American McGee
Publisher: Dark Horse
Release Date: 04/27/2011
ISBN: 9781595826978

Few game creators are as recognizable as American McGee is. Even people who have never played his Alice game recognize the artwork (such as myself- I watched a friend play it), so it makes a lot of sense that McGee would eventually venture back into the insane world of Alice. And because of that there's all new glorious artwork to behold!

Legendary game designer American McGee created one of the most visually arresting games of all time in Alice. Eleven years later, McGee returns with a sequel just as groundbreaking as his critically acclaimed classic—Alice: Madness Returns!

Just in time for Madness Returns, Dark Horse and Spicy Horse studio invite Alice fans to take a journey through the wonderland of American McGee’s imagination for an unprecedented look at the creation of this magnificent and disturbing world. With an introduction by McGee, The Art of Alice offers an intimate look into the stunning and terrifying artwork behind this blockbuster reinterpretation of Lewis Carroll’s enduring masterpiece!

Just like with the original game, the artwork in this is just incredibly beautiful & freaky to behold. There's just so many different art styles here to look at & all of them are wonderfully detailed. Also included in the book are several explanations behind the characters, the ones that made it in & the ones that didn't. This is about the closest you can come to picking McGee's brain without pulling a Hannibal Lecter on him!

The only downfall about this book is that now a whole slew of people are going to be eagerly awaiting the new game's release in June. This is just a gorgeous book & I can't wait to see what this all looks like in action. Seriously, this is one of the more beautifully laid out artbooks I've seen.

5 out of 5 stars

(ARC provided by Netgalley)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Book Review: Wild by Naomi Clark

Title: Wild (Vargulf #1)
Author: Naomi Clark

The premise of this book is rather unique. While I'm sure I'd find books about werewolves & drug addictions if I looked hard, this is new territory that makes a lot of sense when you think about it. How many times have various different authors described their hero(ine) reacting to their lupine urges in a way you'd expect a drug addict to react to their body clamoring for drugs? Mixing the two together makes a lot of sense, to be honest.

Lizzie Creighton ran away from her life a year ago, wanting to escape the pressures of university and just party. And that’s exactly what she did.

But now she's sick of the world she's fallen into – the drink, the drugs, the violence – and she's desperate to start again. The chance to do it comes from the last source she could ever imagine. After her deadbeat boyfriend steals her car and abandons her in the dead of night, Lizzie is bitten by a wolf. And suddenly her next fix is her last problem.

Now, caught between Nick Doyle, the outcast werewolf who claims he can save her, and Seth Weaver, the favourite son of the blue-blood werewolf royalty, Lizzie must decide what kind of werewolf she wants to be.

As shown above, I obviously loved the idea of a drug addict becoming a werewolf because of all the implications. If/when she went off the drugs, would the higher metabolism leave her without the urges or would they be that much stronger? Would it impact her wolfy behaviors? There's just so much possibility here that Clark could do just about anything she wanted & it works very well in this book. Lizzie is a very flawed character. She is selfish, but then that's to be expected from a drug addict & to be honest, I don't think that a selfless behavior would really be realistic here. I'm very glad that we didn't get a souped up Sue-ish character here- it made me that much joyous over Lizzie's triumphs & sad over her failures.

There's a lot that isn't said in this first book, which got to be a little frustrating at times. Without trying to spoil things, I doubt that anyone is what they really seem to be in this book & I can't wait for the next book to find out if my suspicions are a little correct. (After all, Nick's claims can't be entirely baseless, right?) I also want to see if Lizzie will have more after effects from the drugs as she's just starting off on a whole new path now.

This really was a joy to read & Clark has a very clever story brewing here. It's not quite perfect, but it's darn close & I can't help but think that this could be the start of a whole new trend of werewolf fiction. This isn't your normal werewolf story & that's what makes it so good.

4 out of 5 stars

(Reader copy provided by author)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Book Review: Heart of Evil by Heather Graham

Heart of Evil (Krewe of Hunters #2)
Author: Heather Graham
Publisher: Harlequin
Release Date:06/28/2011
ISBN: 0778329984

I don't really expect much from romance books. This isn't because I don't think that there can be some fantastic books in the genre (there's some amazing stuff out there), but because the main goal of romance & most fiction isn't to be some amazingly deep read. Their goal is to entertain & only to entertain, which I respect. Unfortunately you sometimes get things that fall short of even that modest goal, which is what happened here with this book.

Emerging from the bayou like an apparition, Donegal Plantation is known for its unsurpassed dining, captivating atmosphere, haunting legends…and now a corpse swinging from the marble angel that marks its cemetery’s most majestic vault. A corpse discovered in nearly the same situation as that of Marshall Donegal, the patriarch killed in a skirmish just before the Civil War. Desperate for help traditional criminologists could never provide, plantation heiress Ashley Donegal turns to an elite team of paranormal investigators who blend hard forensics with rare – often inexplicable – intuition. Among them is Jake Mallory, a gifted New Orleans musician with talent that stretches beyond the realm of the physical, and a few dark ghosts of his own. The evil the team unveils has the power to shake the plantation to its very core. Jake and Ashley are forced to risk everything to unravel secrets that will not stay buried – even in death…

Normally I'd have a huge paragraph of great things to say about an Adam Harrison related book, but this just isn't the case with this book. While I do like the characters & at times there's some good chemistry, there just wasn't a lot that really stood out here until the ending. I did like the pacing towards the end & it does have a nice little scene at the end as well as some great recipes.

It's just that most of the book felt forced & predictable. Some of the background characters just blurred into one big lump because there wasn't anything to really make them stand out or be exemplary from the rest of the cast. It was also fairly easy to predict the killer because there were only a few people who were described well enough to be the killer & one of those I was able to eliminate because *minor spoiler* one of the team members showed an interest in him *end spoiler*. Even the love scenes didn't really do much to rescue the book because more often than not the chemistry just wasn't present enough to really loop me in like previous books have.

As far as entertainment value goes, I can't muster more than 2 stars for this book. The Heather Graham fangirl in me keeps nagging me to raise the star rating to at least 3 stars, but it's that same fangirl who says "well... I've read a lot better, especially in the AH line of books".

Read this at the library. I wouldn't bother purchasing it unless you absolutely have the urge to keep your collection current.

2/5 stars

(ARC provided by Netgalley)

Book Review: Confessions of a D-List Supervillain

Title: Confessions of a D-List Supervillain
Author: Jim Bernheimer
Release Date:
ISBN: 1461084741

If you’ve ever watched a superhero movie or read the comics, you’ll know that the villains usually make the piece. You can’t have a good hero without a good villain & some of my favorite heroes are the ones who had a bit of a dark past. (Gambit FTW!) This book takes a look into the life of a lower ranking villain, giving us a book that’s several flavors of awesome.

Where do I start on what I liked about this book? I loved how the book started off with action, yet still gave us a good look into the minds of the characters. It made me think of the book Soon I Shall Be Invincible, which I liked but wished it had a little more action to it. This book delivers the adventure in spades, which (let’s be honest) is what draws so many of us to the superhero genre. If I wanted to see a bunch of heroes doing nothing but spouting exposition I’d re-watch Ang Lee’s Hulk.

The pacing of the book moves pretty quickly, which works well for it for the most part. The only flaw I really saw in the book was that at times I wanted a little more of everything & I felt that the ending was a little too rushed. I just felt like it could have been fleshed out a little & more could have been done with it.

All in all, I really enjoyed this book & I can’t wait to read more of Bernheimer’s work. This is a great read for both the casual & the more die-hard fans of the superhero genre. I honestly can’t understand why Bernheimer hasn’t had his big break yet. This was an awesome read.

4.5/5 stars!

(Reader Copy provided by the author)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Book Review: Metalocalypse: Dethklok by Brendon Small

Title: Metalocalypse: Dethklok
Author: Brendon Small, Jon Schnepp, Jeremy Barlow, Eric Powell, Lucas Marangon
Publisher: Dark Horse
Release Date: 07/19/2011
ISBN: 9781595827388

Doctor Rockzo. That's why I liked this collection so much. Granted he's not in it as much as some of the other characters, but he's still pretty heavily featured here, to the delight of rock & roll clown fans everywhere. (I still LOL every time I hear him do his "I do cocaine" line.)

From the depths of Mordhaus comes Dethklok, the most brutal black metal band on the planet, cutting a ferocious swath through the world's economies and playing massive shows that leave their unwaveringly loyal fans literally in pieces - they are five men prophesied to bring about the Metalocalypse! Dethklok is based on the wildly popular Adult Swim series! With stories conjured by series creator Brendon Small and series director/designer Jon Schnepp, this most brutal of all mini-series is scripted by Jeremy Barlow (Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Supersized) and illustrated by Lucas Marangon (Star Wars: Tag and Bink Are Dead). Includes the never-before-collected Dethklok Versus The Goon, by Eric Powell, Brendon Small, and Dave Stewart.

I'm going to rate this on story & art separately since well, the art is sort of one of the things I had a bit of an issue with. First off, the story. As Small was involved with the making of this comic, these stories easily fit in with the feel of the series. All of the stuff we love is in here: clueless antics by our anti-heroes, metal songs, & Doctor Rockzo. There's a few different stories in here, one of which is the Dethklok Versus The Goon storyline, which is actually pretty good despite my not knowing who The Goon is. I could easily see these being lifted from the pages into the cartoon, so if you're worried that the humor won't translate into the comic then rest easy- it works.

Unfortunately the part I sort of had an issue with was the artwork quality. Excluding the artwork for DVTG since that was obviously drawn by several different people, the artwork here sort of varies in quality. It's well done for the most part & the characters are instantly recognizable, but occasionally it just seemed like the artist got a little bored & as such, some of the panels felt a little sloppily done. I probably wouldn't have noticed if not for the higher quality artwork that was done earlier on in the volume, but the fact remains that I did notice it.

Overall this was still a fun read & for die-hard fans of the series it's a definite must have. For the people in the middle it's still not a bad investment for the most part. Despite the occasional artwork mishap this is still one of the stronger "tv show/movie into comic book" transitions out there. Metal.

Art: 3 out of 5 stars
Story: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars

(ARC provided by Netgalley)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Book Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Long Way Home

Title: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Long Way Home (Season 8, Volume 1)
Authors: Joss Whedon, Andy Owens, Georges Jeanty
Publisher: Dark Horse Publishing
Release Date: 10/31/2007
ISBN: 1593078226

Reading this graphic novel took me back to when I used to religiously watch my taped seasons of Buffy, hanging onto each & every thing that happened. I mourned when Oz & Willow broke up, when Angel went evil, & when Tara was killed. I've followed the comic sporadically but due to empty-wallet-itis & the fact that my local library is unable to keep entire collections of graphic novels on the shelves (they either get stolen or shredded after a year of circulation), I've been unable to really read the comic compilations like I've wanted to.

This was worth the wait, in my opinion.

Since the destruction of the Hellmouth, the Slayers - newly legion - have gotten organized and are kicking some serious undead butt. But not everything's fun and firearms, as an old enemy reappears and Dawn experiences some serious growing pains. Meanwhile, one of the "Buffy" decoy slayers is going through major pain of her own.

I absolutely loved the artwork the first time I'd read this as it was getting released in individual issues, & that hasn't changed. I love how the artists interpreted the actors' looks into the comic without it being too obviously "this is Sarah Michelle Gellar" or "this is Allyson Hannigan". The characters individual personalities are very much brought into the artwork & it shows. (And Willow continues to be my favorite Buffy character ever.)

It'd been a while since I'd last watched Buffy or refreshed myself on the storyline so I'm glad to say that you can pretty much dive into this with little to no issues. People who are new to Buffy will be understandably lost, but the story here has enough to offer to where they can follow along & catch up via the internet & old episodes. I'll admit that I was a little afraid that this would be some cheap ploy to dive into the fandom's pockets, but this really is a well done comic adaptation. Luckily Netgalley has many more of the volumes up for perusal, so I'll let you guys know if any of this changes.

4.5 out of 5 stars

(Reader copy provided by Netgalley)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Now I need an iPad: Viz releases a manga app!

Hi everyone! I've always thought that we needed more mangas available in ebook format & while this isn't exactly the "manga released for my sony ereader" I was hoping for, it's still a whole lot of awesome.

Viz Media has decided to jump on the app bandwagon, releasing an app that will allow you to download hundreds of volumes of their manga at the touch of a button. So far this is only available for iPad, iPhone, & iPod Touch, although I'm sure it won't be long until this shows up on some of the other products out there. (Or until someone finds a way to upload this app onto their phone.)

As an extra bit of awesomeness, Viz has lowered the prices of some of the first volumes of the offered manga to $2.99, which any manga lover can tell you is pretty dirt cheap.

Not only can you read a ton of their biggest series, but you can also download samples, which is an awesome feature. No longer will you have to fight past the hordes of teenagers that have decided to camp out on the floors in front of the bookstore's manga section. (By the way, this actually happens. I've actually had to step over someone in order to put books away.) Now you can show all of them up by looking up these titles on your phone while you sit in the cafe sipping your coffee. Or on the bus. The sky's really the limit as far as "places I can read manga" goes.

Own more than one i-product? You can bookmark & browse on any of your devices without having to sign up with various different accounts.

While I don't (yet) have any of these products, this gives me a new reason to want one & I can't hope that Viz branches out to the various ereaders. I know that I love reading mangas on my ereader since it's sometimes easier to collect things digitally to save on room. There are some titles I want to collect in paper format but there's just as many that I'd rather have on my ereader to peruse at my leisure. Hopefully this app will show Viz & some of the other publishers out there (for both manga, graphic novels, & "regular" comics) that there is an ereader market to be seized.

(Info taken from Viz's site as well as from the ANN news article)